Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.

I have sold out. I can’t believe I’m about to say this… but I have taken a role within WFTDA OffCom.

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Before you hiss and back away, let me tell you about the new ad hoc panel they have started, and why I am mother flipping chairing it.

  1. It’s about Diversity and Inclusion. WHICH I LOVE.
  2. It will look to give a voice to under-represented groups. WHICH IS A GOOD THING.
  3. It will work directly to OffCom, looking at suggestions and ideas, testing them for durability and then putting the best ones forward. WHICH IS USEFUL.

Ok ok ok. Yes it’s WORTHY, but can I just point out how much we bloody need something like this.

I shared my “action plan” (see below… I laboured over this for far far too long), and had someone compare it to “men telling women how to not be assaulted”.

Such a strong reaction to someone trying to make positive changes really makes you think doesn’t it?

Add in to that that this was in a female officiating group – and nearly as many people liked that comment as liked my post – and you know there is an issue.

At first I was like *sigh* THIS IS DRAINING THE LIFE OUT OF MEEEEEEEEEE.

Then I spoke to Mat who said “well that just proves how much it’s needed”.

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He’s a good lad isn’t he?

Thing is, he’s right.

If the people you’re trying to help (I’m part of that group too remember) assume your hard work is tokenistic and well-meaning-but-ultimately-doomed, then you know you need to do the thing and try and help, because things are not rainbows and kittens at the moment.

So I was like YES I NEED TO DO THIS.

I ended up doing this because… and this may shock you to read… I complained about things so much that they were like OK GO AND FIX IT THEN. And I was like:

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Thing is. I have many reasons for wanting to do this:

  • I have a lot of feels about a lot of situations and I finally have people that will listen to me.
  • I’m also off skates now so I have time to take things like this on.
  • I am annoyed that I couldn’t see myself going any further than I did when I had the chance.

I came to refereeing as “a fun thing” originally. Naturally I ended up wanting to make it to the top, like I always do. I decided to go for referee certification. I put in a lot of work, time and money. I reached Level 2 – something I’m very proud of.

But in my time in certification, I realised that it’s unlikely that I would be able to progress any further – regardless as to my skills, holiday allowance and money.

This is because the systems in place – created with good intentions – are no longer fit for the job.

Our sport has grown. Interest in refereeing has grown. We have people wanting to reach the top of officiating that were never even considered when the structures were put in place to rank referees. That’s no one’s fault. However it’s everyone’s shame that those structures are now silos, stopping us from moving forward. Stopping us from opening doors to everyone that is willing to put in the effort to stand up and be counted.

In my opinion some people have being skipped-over when others have been progressed far beyond their abilities. I see patterns in these groups. I know others see these patterns.

I see people willing to admit things aren’t right, but I don’t see anyone able to dedicate time to making changes.

So… I offered my time to do it.

I’m coming from the angle of a European female. I have experienced being held back. I have seen others like me being held back. And because of those experiences, I can’t not do this.

I can’t leave roller derby having trained so many amazing women to referee… knowing that they won’t progress higher than I did.

They have so much potential, far more than I have, and I can’t knowingly leave them to battle harder than anyone else and only make it halfway up the road. The feminist in me would rather remove them from derby and teach them badminton than let that happen. BADMINTON. See how serious I am here?

I feel like their mother – I want them to have the opportunity to go as far as they want. But the evidence says those opportunities are not there for them at the moment:

At Level 5 we have… 13 males. 0 females.
Level 4 we have 18 refs. 1 female.
Level 3 there are 56 refs, 12 of them are females.

Which… isn’t… great. Is it Beyonce?

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Out of all of those, there is one European female: Cherry Fury.

Now, have you seen Cherry Fury referee? HAVE YOU? THEN YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED TRUE BEAUTY AND YOU ARE LUCKY.

*cough* Do you think she is anything less than a Level 5? No? Good, we’re agreed.

*deletes rant about this whole sorry situation* *takes deep breath* *gets angry again*

I used to laugh when people answered my question of: “What do you need to do to be a Level 5 referee?” with “Be a white American male with a beard”. But similar to this article in the Guardian which shows that there are more men named John leading FTSE firms than the are women (not women named John, just women at all), it’s not a laughing matter.

And it’s not just about women.

I have my experiences. You have yours. I can’t talk about yours without talking to you. But I want to talk to you. I want to know what this is like for you. And I want to work to help fix that situation. I want to make sure we get together as diverse as possible a panel to speak for everyone in officiating.

I want to pull together a panel of people that know more than I do, that are as fierce about fixing things as I am.

I want to see more balance.

I want people to look at all levels of refereeing and see themselves reflected back. All genders, nationalities, ages, sexualities… I want the people you see to be an accurate representation of the community they come from.

I know we’re not all white American males with beards. I know some of you are. We need those beardy-blokes too. They’re part of our community. But they’re a part of it. They’re not all of it.

WFTDA has a brilliant slogan, it aims to be: Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.

I think we should take that last bit seriously. I think we need a revolution.

My call to action (please share!):


I am in the process of working with WFTDA OffCom to create a Diversity and Inclusion panel – with the bold aim of increasing the opportunities and visibility of the under-represented members of our community.

We are seeking to broaden representation in terms of race, national origin/geography, gender identity, class and other groups and communities, recognising that OffCom leadership has not always represented the breadth of diversity in WFTDA officiating.

It’s my belief that diversity is important in order to appreciate and value the difference in people, and the remarkable contribution we can make when we work together.

I also believe that issues can’t just be fixed by wishful thinking and hoping… I hope that others share this belief and will work with me to make positive changes.

My aims are:
· To create a panel that better represents the diversity of our community, and gives more of a voice to the groups that are currently under-represented.
· To provide a destination for WFTDA officials and team representatives to send their ideas and suggestions surrounding D&I.
· To encourage and support changes at grass roots levels, providing a healthier start for people within officiating.
· To encourage and support changes throughout officiating to enable those under-represented groups to move up in areas where they have not had equal opportunity to do so.

Yes. It is a big task. And that’s why I need help.

The panel will sit within OffCom, and as such is only open to certified officials and WFTDA official reps.

The panel will be appointed and volunteer based at the start, will sit under OffCom elect leadership and serve as advisor to OffCom leadership.
Structure will be based on successful models already in action within WFTDA panels, but suggestions and feedback on this will be listened to.

So! I need your help to put me in touch with the people you think most fit the bill for this. Whether as potential panel members or simply as people willing to contribute at the start in order to make this the best it can be.

I’m open to all your contacts, so please send them my way. Or if this sounds like something you would like to do, please get in touch. I can be contacted on: vonsleaze@gmail.com

I really appreciate your support in this, and hope to make some positive changes with your help.


Finally I just want to say thank you to those at the top that messaged me to tell me to keep fighting. The ones who listened to my suggestions about changes and rather than saying they didn’t want to rock the boat, they said “Yes please!”

The ones that even went so far as to offer me a place to work on Diversity and Inclusion.

Thank you for telling me to ignore the haters and instead stun them into silence them with the job I do.

If you didn’t live so far away I would totally paw your faces off. Thank you.

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2 thoughts on “Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.

  1. Wow, I totally agree with you and your aims. I am a dedicated Derby Mom and Derby fan, so I am, unfortunately, not physically active in the sport.
    I do, however, recognize the dominance of white males as referees within this sport. This has always surprised me, not to mention disturbing me.
    Success with this honest endeavour!
    Real.Strong.Athletic.Revolutionary.!! You can do this!

  2. I’m new to derby but I’m not new to feminism. I was noticing the large number of male NSO’s wondering why they couldn’t find more qualified and interested women. So, what’s the story? What’s the glass ceiling in that position? I’d love to be part of the solution.

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